Things will be just the same, but really, really different! Its so exciting! Bill English is from the South and I’m from the North! How great a team is that? And can I tell you again how awesomely talented all my colleagues are? Yikes. I have a feeling we’re going to get very tired of the chirpy chops ebullience of our new deputy Prime Minister in a very short period of time. Grumpy, less charitable thoughts do come to mind. As in… is someone, anyone on the new team going to ensure that Nick Smith and Murray McCully are shot at dawn this week, and replaced by people even more awesome than they are?
Now that the charade of a contest for the National Party leadership is over – the pre-arranged succession had about as much drama as the upcoming transition from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Charles – attention will shift once again this week to the minor placings. Will Nick Smith /Murray McCully /Anne Tolley volunteer to go, be pushed, or be left where they are? Any “renewal” that doesn’t dispose of that kind of deadweight deserves to be regarded as a failure, right out of the box.
Now that the kitchen Cabinet have all been moved up a notch… the main bauble of note still unclaimed will be decided by who gets to replace Steven Joyce at MBIE – Simon Bridges, Jonathan Coleman, or (maybe) Amy Adams? Because, surely, Joyce cannot become Minister of Finance while remaining the Minister of Economic Development, can he? Or can he?
Coleman may become a victim of his own success. Like his predecessor Tony Ryall in the health portfolio, Coleman has kept a fairly tight lid on what should be a point of electoral vulnerability for National. Would the new leadership team really want to risk opening that can of worms by appointing a new Health Minister so close to the next election? Bridges then, should be the frontrunner here, but he’s hardly the epitome of a safe pair of hands, or a consummate team player. Vaulting him into Joyce’s old job would be a real gamble. One option might be to let Joyce do both jobs only until the next election is safely past. (Leave Coleman in Health and let Bridges sort out the transport problems, post earthquake? Hmmm. The downside is that might be too much continuity for the new team to bear.) So almost by default….what about shifting Amy Adams from Justice to MBIE? That could work.
So who else gets promoted? If McCully does finally take his exit in the style to which we have become accustomed – eg the Rebstock fiasco reportedly cost $288,000, even before you start counting the payout to the maligned diplomats and/or the overall cost of the bungled MFAT reforms, and all of that comes on top of the $11 million handout masterminded by McCully to the Saudi businessman etc etc – who will get to replace him? It’s such a hard act to follow. Well, Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller has been marked for bigger things for quite some time. Muller has a kiwifruit/Fonterra background and sits on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. In that respect, Muller would be a handy replacement for either Smith or McCully. If Coleman is to be shifted, Foreign Affairs is an option.
In line for demotion: Jo Goodhew, Louise Upston and if there was any justice, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. Hekia Parata has already signalled her intention to leave, and now would be a good time, pre election, to name her replacement. In normal circumstances, Associate education Minister Nikki Kaye would be the obvious choice. She aims to return to full duties next year after her treatment for breast cancer, but it would probably still be too soon to give Kaye the entire load of ministerial responsibilities. Backbencher Chris Bishop can hope to be promoted to an associate position – but hopefully not in Health, given his previous career as a tobacco lobbyist. Education alongside Kaye, maybe?
Not surprisingly, Taranaki King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has a farming background and – if Nick Smith really is on the way out – she could pick up some of his duties on the environment, in an associate capacity. List MP Alfred Ngaro has been the first Cook Islander in the NZ Parliament and while socially conservative – he voted against the same-sex marriage legislation in 2013 – he can point to administrative/advisory experience in both the DHB and social development areas.
So, lots of options exist. I’m excitcd. Are you excited? Appropriately, here’s a song by the Exciters expressing the Cabinet’s over the moon levels of enthusiasm for the nation’s “new” leader…
Footnote : Talking of Cabinet appointments, it also seems pretty exciting that President –elect Donald Trump has just picked former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State .
Now, a few sticklers and spoil sports might say that’s inappropriate, in that Tillerson has no diplomatic experience whatsoever. But hey, hasn’t Trump already told us that US foreign policy should be about getting America’s hands on the oil deposits owned by other countries ? Now, who better equipped to accomplish that crucial task than the former boss of Exxon? In the meantime, here’s a track from the pre-OPEC days of greatness, back when America had all the gasoline it wanted, and its rest rooms sure were clean…